Flexibility is not a perk but a necessity for most of today’s workers. Surveys show that they expect it, they choose their employers based on it, and they quit their jobs when promises of flexibility don’t pan out.
It isn’t just mothers who want flexible work, but also: fathers of young children; child-free employees who volunteer, teach, travel, write, or participate in other activities outside of the office; knowledge workers who are more productive in locations or at times other than the traditional work schedule; employees who care for sick or aging parents, or for family members with disabilities; employees who want to maintain or restore their own health; and baby boomers who want to slow down or work differently as they near retirement. That is just about everyone in your company, isn’t it?
Companies that can meet this demand have a clear business advantage. They become “employers of choice” and find that recruiting is easier and less expensive, with larger applicant pools so they can have their pick of the most qualified candidates. They find their attrition is cut, reducing the costs and disruptions of high turnover and constant replacement. With a more stable workforce, they find they have a more collegial and inclusive atmosphere, and more experienced and engaged employees who are more productive. Most importantly, the companies find that by retaining valuable employees who have strong ties to their clients and customers, customer service and loyalty — and, ultimately, their bottom lines — are enhanced.
Many companies fail to realize the benefits of a good flexible work program. They may fail to provide the types of flexibility today’s employees want, or they may fail to provide the management structures necessary to support the program. Almost always, they fail to address the main reason flexible work programs do not succeed: flexibility bias.
Flexibility bias is a set of often unconscious assumptions that employees who work non-standard schedules are less committed to their jobs, less ambitious, and less dependable. These assumptions can lead to flexible workers being given poor assignments, passed over for promotions, given undeservedly negative evaluations, isolated, not mentored, demoted, or even terminated. If this sounds like a “mommy track” or a recipe for forcing someone to quit, it is. Sometimes, it can land an employer in court.
We have solutions, based on research and best practices from companies that have successful flexible work programs. Contact us to discuss how we can help your company implement solutions tailored to its unique position.